herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Norris launches fight to rescue his bid for President

SENATOR David Norris has gone on the defensive about his controversial comments on the age of consent.

As damaging attacks on his presidential campaign continued today, the politician took the unprecedented move of writing to supporters outlining his views on a range of sexual issues.

He declared that he abhors child abuse and that all perpetrators should face "the full rigours of the law" but also confirmed that he does not favour a legal age of consent.

The gay senator has been criticised by some people who believed remarks he made a decade ago had failed to forthrightly condemn paedophilia.

In a public letter to supporters today, he declared some opinions and quotes attributed to him were "grossly inaccurate".



campaigned

"I abhor child abuse in all its forms: psychological, sexual or emotional. I have always campaigned for children's rights and was central in introducing the appointment of guardian ad litem (mandatory legal representation for children) to child protection cases in court to ensure that the rights of the child are properly represented," he stated.

On the issue of court cases involving age of consent in sexual behaviour, he indicated the law should not be based on age but rather on the findings of judges in individual cases.

"The people best equipped to make these difficult moral and legal decisions are the judiciary. Legislation based on the principle of consent empowers the judiciary.

Consent based on age has resulted in many instances in the inappropriate criminal prosecution of minors," he said.

He said sexual abuse was always wrong and added there were different levels of abuse which was appropriately recognised in Irish law. He said: "I believe in justice delivered proportionately, across the spectrum of the relevant crime.

"Sexual abuse is always wrong, but as in all crimes, there is a spectrum and this is appropriately recognised in sentencing policy and throughout Irish law."

He said he was saddened his comments about media reporting of abuse had been misconstrued and caused hurt.

"My comments relating to the impact of media reporting on the victims of sex abuse being worse than the actual abuse have been misconstrued and have caused hurt, for which I am saddened," he said.

Regarding the controversy surrounding a television documentary about Irish poet Cathal O Searcaigh's activities with male students on foreign trips, he said if allegations in the documentary were true, the authorities should investigate them and "prosecute if a crime has been demonstrated."



fear

Mr Norris went on to explain that when he was a young gay man in Dublin there were no social outlets.

The subject was surrounded "by silence and fear."

He said he then read Plato's symposium written in ancient Greece where "pederasty" was a term describing "sexual relations between an older and a young man".

The philosopher Plato argued that "physical love was the gateway to spiritual love". He said Plato's work ends "very movingly with the most beautiful young man in Athens, Alcibiades admitting that he has offered himself sexually to Socrates in return for sharing in Socrates' wisdom.

"I saw this enlightening approach and experience as a much more interesting and preferable introduction to sexuality than my own experience."

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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